**Sorry this is so long! My labor was only 6 hours long, but it might take you just as long to make it through this post!**
The night of June 27th I felt really vulnerable and pessimistic. I was 40+5 and had an unwanted induction scheduled in two days, and even though I was less than a week “overdue” I couldn’t help feeling like there was something wrong with me or my body. I was having all of the classic signs of impending labor—I’d been losing plug for about a week, Braxton Hicks were getting steadily stronger and more frequent over that week as well. At 40+2 I’d gotten a cervical check that had me at 80% effaced and 1cm dilated. A Non-stress test the next day had verified that baby was head-down and LOT or LOA, with a nice strong heartbeat and good amniotic fluid levels. I’m not sure why I felt so negative that night, I had no intention of submitting to the induction. But the woman who had scheduled the induction was the director of the entire midwifery program I was using, and I couldn’t help feeling betrayed by the entire lot of them. The program is comprised of something like 10 midwives, but I had only seen one the entire pregnancy and I had really grown to respect and trust her. Unfortunately I had no way of knowing who would be on rotation when I went into labor, and I think that contributed to my negativity. So I had a nice long cry and went to bed, and then woke the next morning at 7 AM to nurse my 3 yr old.
While we were nursing I noticed that my contractions were getting stronger, and suddenly I was hit by a doosey. I had to pop DD off (she was so sweet and offered to rub my belly, but I couldn’t stand the thought of being touched) and rock and breathe to get through it. Right near the end I felt a small snap high up in my belly and felt two small gushes. I got up to see if I would get any more but that was it. Still, I told my mom that I thought my water might have broken and then I sat down on my yoga ball to have breakfast with DH. He makes it for us every morning, and I kind of like that his breakfast was the last meal I ate before having our daughter
After eating he went off to sleep—he works overnight shift and had just gotten home from an 8 hour “day.” With my first birth—before he started working nights—I went into labor around 1AM, just as he was getting into bed, and that ended up being a 28 hour ordeal. So he REALLY wanted to try sleeping as much as possible in the early stages this time. While he slept I bounced and rocked on my yoga ball and started timing contractions. Right away I noticed that they were a fairly regular 7 minutes apart lasting for 1 minute, and they stayed that way for over an hour. I texted “my” midwife who informed me that she was actually working the rotation that day, and she urged me to come in if I thought they were getting stronger. I was so elated that she was going to be attending my birth! Over the next hour they started picking up in intensity and got closer to 5 minutes apart, so we woke DH and got on the road at 10AM.
During the 15 minute ride to the hospital the contractions kept getting steadily more intense and more frequent—every 2 to 3 minutes! I really had to vocalize and breathe through them, and didn’t want my mom or DH talking at all! When we got to the hospital and walked in I was hit by another one and had to stop and lean against a pillar and rock/breathe through it. I guess the front desk people saw me and sent someone over with a wheelchair, but not one of those chairs with the soft suspended leather seats. No, this was a hard, flat monstrosity that looked like pure hell for a woman in labor. The guy wielding my would-be torture chamber would not take no for an answer and kept pestering me to hop on, even though I assured him that rolling on my yoga ball was the best thing for me. He said, “But you look like you’re in pain!” and I said “Yeah I know, I’m in Labor! But this isn’t my first rodeo, so I know what I’m doing.” LOL
When I got into triage the intake nurse was AWESOME and so sweet, and I could tell she was very supportive of the natural water births that had just returned to the hospital (they had recently suspended the program for over a year and had just re-introduced it a few months prior.) She checked my cervix and declared me a stretchy 4 or 5, and told me they would make the annoying fetal monitoring part as quick as possible so I could get back out of the bed. At this point my DH went to the room to set up the tub and my mom stayed with me to help me through contractions. At that point the only thing that got me through was squeezing her hands TIGHT and pushing hard against her arms. I kept wanting to bite her too, it was this strange but overwhelming involuntary urge. I never actually bit her…but I tried! Before too long they brought us to the room I was to birth in, and the labor nurse wanted to do all of the vitals and fetal checks again! Oh HELL no, I wasn’t getting back in that bed! I told her that triage had literally JUST finished doing all of that, and she could verify that everything was good with them. She was very annoyed by that, so I consented to letting her talk my temperature, haha. I really did NOT like my labor nurse, and considered requesting a new one, but while I was thinking about it they finished filling the tub and I got in instead.
The water felt amazing, but the tub felt a little bit too big. I used a LaBassine oval tub recommended by my midwives. It was nice and deep, and I liked that the bottom inflated to cushion my knees, but it was so roomy and I felt like I couldn’t gain purchase I needed. At first I had my mom in front of me so I could squeeze her hands and push against her arms (and try to bite her ;) ) while DH poured hot water down my back. But then I started feeling back labor and needed DH to get in the tub with me so he could apply counter pressure to my sacrum and pelvis. I was really moaning and growling my way through contractions and envisioned myself as a lioness giving birth (trying to make myself feel powerful instead of weak or panicky. I had 24+ hours of intense back labor with my first, so the return of that sensation scared me.) I also found myself wanting to shake my head “NO” during contractions but forced myself to nod “YES” instead, which I think was a little psychological trick to keep me from going over to the dark side of panic and lost control. Between contractions I mentioned to my MW that I was afraid that I was tensing up too much and fighting contractions instead of relaxing through them and allowing dilation to happen. She reassured me that my body was strong and wise, and to trust my instincts on how to get through it. That was exactly what I needed to hear. At this point the counterpressure started to hurt rather than help, and the pain from contractions shifted into my belly. I mentioned this and my MW said that the baby must have turned fully LOA, which was great to hear!
Right around this time I began to feel myself go through transition. I started to tell everyone how much I hated this and how terrible it was. My mom’s eyes went soft with sympathy, which I read as pity. I was also groaning “FUUUCK” and “SON OF A BITCH!” during contractions, which elicited nervous laughter from my mom. Both of her reactions to my labor at this point annoyed me, so I turned toward my husband who had a firm, intense, strong gaze that I latched on to. I tried squeezing his hands and pushing against his arms like I’d been doing with mom, but it just didn’t feel right anymore. So instead I focused on his eyes and leaned against him, rubbing my face against his stubble or pressing my forehead against his while focusing on relaxing my belly and birth canal through contractions. I started to feel pushy and switched to a squat with DH behind me, supporting my body. Lightly pushing through contractions felt good, so I went with that and felt my water really break with a GUSH. At that point the contractions started to just take over my body as the urge to push gripped me and elicited loud, low, primal GROWLS that hurt my throat. I was really shocked by the intensity of the urge to push, because I never waited for my body to get there with my first birth. I started to change positions frequently and DH just followed and supported me intuitively. One of the midwives asked me what position I wanted to be in and I said “I have no idea!” She reassured me that I was doing a great job and said that it was remarkable how controlled I was. That surprised me because I certainly didn’t FEEL like I was being very controlled—cursing and groaning and whatnot.
I reached down to see if I could feel anything, and baby’s head was less than an inch from crowning. I moved back to hands and knees, leaning my upper body over the edge of the pool as DH applied counter pressure to my bum and perineum at my request. As I felt her coming down the birth canal and crowning I was overtaken by intense waves of pleasure along with pulsating uterine contractions. Now, I’ve read stories in which women claim to have orgasmic births, and I’ve always been extremely skeptical. But then it happened to me, and I guess now I’m a believer! My first birth was extremely painful, with the Ring of Fire upon crowning, and although pushing felt “good” then, I think it was due to finally seeing some progress after a long, drawn-out labor. But this time it was completely different. There was no Ring of Fire, just intense overpowering pleasure that coursed through my whole body. I’m reluctant to call them orgasms, because I obviously wasn’t aroused and I wasn’t trying to get my body to respond that way. But I really can’t describe the pleasure as anything other than an orgasm, because that is EXACTLY how it felt. I had maybe 2 or 3 and it was done, her head was out!
Now, I expected her body to just slither out, but that didn’t happen! I guess I’d forgotten about her shoulders. I was also surprised by how much WORK I had to put into the pushing, on top of what my body was just involuntarily doing. I’ve read about some women just letting their natural urge to push do all the work, but that wasn’t enough to get this baby out. I looked back and saw her whole squished purple face, with her eyes squeezed shut, and it kind of scared me. I decided that she was going to come out NOW and I just pushed and pushed regardless of whether or not I was having a contraction. It took a tremendous effort and a lot of yelling (I think I was mostly saying “C’mon Amelia!” and “Let’s get this baby OUT!”) I felt her shoulders pass through my pelvis and DH and the midwives grabbed her as I sank back against the side of the pool. They handed her to me and she just looked up at me with such a serene look on her face, no crying or fussing at all.
I was feeling too weak to stay in the pool, so we got out and I climbed up onto the bed to hold and nurse Amelia as they waited for the cord to stop pulsing so DH could cut it. They weighed her in at 9lbs 9oz, no wonder it took such a concentrated effort to get her out! I’m glad that the placenta was delivered outside of the pool, because my mom and DH ended up doing all the cleanup with no help from any of the hospital staff, and I’m glad that the water wasn’t full of blood and clots and yuck. I declined Pitocin for the placenta delivery, which my midwives fully supported. They massaged my uterus and declared it to be clamping down nicely since Amelia was already nursing so well. Unfortunately the labor nurse wouldn’t let it be and kept trying to roughly massage my uterus, even though it was already hard and contracting. She also refused to take out my Hep-Lock, convinced that I was going to bleed out at any moment. I didn’t manage to convince any of the nursing staff to remove the hep-lock and had to wait for almost 7 hours after the delivery, when one of the midwives came up to recovery to check on me! We ended up leaving the hospital an hour after that, Against Hospital Recommendation. I’m so glad that we spent that first night at home in our own bed, with both of our daughters next to us. Now we are dealing with the headache of trying to get all of the newborn screening and PKU testing done, which is turning out to be such a hassle. But I’m still glad that we left the hospital when we did.